my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

December 27th, 2007

#83 – Triangle

Even without noticing it acutely, I’m probably reading a book a day, well at least over the last two anyway. This trend might need to continue as my body forces me to rest, having now come down with a rotten cold not even ten days after the plague, and not even a day after my RRHB himself survived the awful GI sickness. Isn’t that what holidays are for?

Annnywaaay. Today it’s Katharine Weber’s excellent Triangle: A Novel. Started last night after we watched Eastern Promises (well, the RRHB watched the film; I half puttered about because I’d already seen the film), I just finished it moments ago, cuddled up with a cup of cold tea on the chair with Walter at my feet.

It’s an interesting novel, both in the way Weber chooses to tell the story, swinging back and forth over Esther Gottesfeld’s tale of the day in which she survived the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, and the modern day lives of Esther, her granddaughter Rebecca and her composer lover George. On the edge of death from the ripe old age of 106, Esther has kept a number of secrets about the fire for 90 years, details that an historian named Ruth Zion is desperate to pry out of her cold, dead hands. They are all fascinating characters all, but its truly Rebecca and George, whose final composition in the book finds its inspiration from those tragic events, who find their lives inexorably changed when Esther finally dies.

Told in various formats (court transcripts, newspaper articles, phone conversations), and commenting mercilessly on the nature of storytelling itself, the novel is rich in fascinating details, not only about the music George composes and its compellingly scientific beginnings, but also in the nature of Rebecca’s work as a geneticist, and how both of these things tie the couple together in ways that are not necessarily traditional, but certainly work to keep the two of them happy. It’s a beautiful book about the nature of family, the threads of tradition, and a tragedy that defined the history of New York at that particular time and place.

Inspiring, addictive, ridiculously smart and completely effective, Triangle: A Novel might just be the perfect book for a partially snowy grey day in Toronto; miles and years away from 1911 New York, and worlds away from composers, geneticists, and all kinds of other things I would have never known about had I not finished Weber’s work.

PHOTO IN CONTEXT: I love the detail on the cover where the word “Triangle” is stitched onto a shirt (maybe a shirtwaist?), and wanted to highlight it with my photograph of the book sitting on my desk surrounded by used Kleenex (gross), pens, a notepad, with Helen Humphrey’s The Frozen Thames underneath.

One Response to “#83 – Triangle”

  • Katharine Weber says:

    It is a photograph of a shirtwaist, in fact, one I bought on Ebay — it’s circa 1911, and sweatshop made. Possibly even made at the Triangle, but I will never know.

    Thank you for your response to my novel.

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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